Ultimate Fudgy Brownies


One of my dear friends is convinced she is a lost cause in the kitchen. “I burn water!” she insists, and she is only half kidding.

A few days ago, she asked if I could help her make brownies with M&Ms for her brother’s Independence Day party.


Brownies are actually pretty foolproof as long as you remember the golden rule: don’t overbake.

We threw in some M&Ms, but other add-ins might include nuts, chocolate chips, maybe even caramel.

Happy Independence Day!

Ultimate Fudgy Brownies

From Fine Cooking

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cut into 9 pieces; more softened for the pan
1 1/4 cups (3 3/4 oz.) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. table salt
5 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups (7 3/4 oz.) all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°. Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch straight-sided metal baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving about a 2-inch overhang on the short sides. Lightly butter the foil.

Put the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat and stir occasionally until melted, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth, 1 minute. Add the sugar and salt, and whisk until well blended. Use your fingertip to check the temperature of the batter—it should be warm, not hot. If it’s hot, set the pan aside for a minute or two before continuing.

Whisk in the eggs, two and then three at a time, until just blended. Whisk in the vanilla until the batter is well blended. Sprinkle the flour over the batter and stir with a rubber spatula until just blended.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with small bits of brownie sticking to it, 35 to 45 minutes. For fudgy brownies, do not overbake. Cool the brownies completely in the pan on a rack, about 3 hours.

When the brownies are cool, use the foil overhang to lift them from the pan. Invert onto a cutting board and carefully peel away the foil. Flip again and cut into 24 squares. (RHRW tip: use a plastic knife) Serve immediately or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. They can also be frozen in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 1 month.


Tacos Al Pastor


Vacations never last long enough, do they?

Okay, that’s a pretty ironic statement coming from me, a self-proclaimed workaholic who has trouble using her (admittedly generous) vacation time.

When I do go on vacation, I like to eat. And when I come back, I like to play in my kitchen and try to recreate some of the dishes. I returned from Mexico with a few ideas, but  was especially interested in trying to make my own tacos al pastor.

When I think “taco,” I picture either your basic American family weeknight supper, featuring ground beef, sour cream, and shredded cheese, or fish tacos, which are pretty much the perfect beach food.

When I ordered these tacos, I was expecting shredded pork like I’ve had before. Instead, I was delighted with tiny crumbles of pork with a spicy kick.

Upon returning stateside, I did some research. “Al pastor” means “in the style of the shepherd.” It seems to be a fusion of Lebanese and Mexican cooking, typically involving a rotisserie. This recipe is modified for a home cook working on a stove. If you have the ability to roast the pork shoulder whole (maybe on a larger grill this summer?), by all means, try it out and let me know how it goes!

The enzymes in pineapple help tenderize the meat, while its sweetness is a nice contrast to the spice. And speaking of spice: achiote paste is a wet spice blend found in the spice aisle of international supermarkets. When I read “paste,” I was expecting the consistency of tomato paste, but it’s more like a dry brownie, if that makes any sense. The package I bought was about three ounces, so it was easy to measure out the amount I needed. Turns out, you can cut the sad little “brownie” with a butter knife. :)


I found achiote paste in a nearby international grocery store.


Is it just me, or does this achiote “paste” look like a sad packaged brownie or snack cake?

Achiote marinade

Combine achiote paste, pineapple juice, oil, garlic and salt in a food processor.

Place the pork in a freezer bag and add the marinade. Seal and place in the refrigerator.


The marinated pork is cooked and then chopped into bite-sized pieces


Caramelized pineapple complements the marinade while also cutting the spice.

This recipe didn’t produce identical results to my meal in Puerto Vallarta, but I imagine every restaurant has its own variation anyway. It was still quite good, and it is definitely worth adding to your cooking repertoire.


Tacos Al Pastor

Adapted from The Food Network

Serves 6

1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more
1 oz. achiote paste
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
4 chipotles in adobo sauce
1 clove garlic
Pinch kosher salt
2 pounds boneless pork butt, sliced into 1/2″ thick slices, then into 1/2″ wide strips
12 fresh 6″ white corn tortillas
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
For serving, as desired: diced red onion, chopped cilantro, avocado sauce, salsa, crumbled cotija cheese

Puree pineapple juice, oil, achiote paste, adobo sauce, chipotles, garlic and salt in a food processor. Mix the pineapple juice mixture with the pork in a freezer bag and move around to coat. Marinate the pork in the fridge, 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat a cast-iron skillet or grill to medium-high heat. Lightly oil the skillet and add the tortillas, toasting, about 30 seconds per side. Remove the tortillas and store in a towel to keep warm.

Raise the heat under the skillet to high. Remove the pork from the bag and wipe off excess marinade. Cook the pork in batches, until charred and cooked through. Remove the pork from the skillet and chop into bite-sized pieces.

Add the onions and pineapple to the pan and quickly cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Spoon pork into taco shells. Serve immediately.

Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one in the DC metro area who doesn’t love brunch. It’s not that I hate brunch — really, I don’t — I just don’t see what the big deal is.

Whenever I go out for brunch, I can’t shake the feeling I’m being herded through like cattle. The restaurants are overcrowded and understaffed. I don’t feel like I have time to taste my food, let alone enjoy a leisurely meal or enjoy the conversation. Sometimes I don’t think the wait staff even refills my water… because I haven’t had enough time to drink it.


Maybe my problem with brunch isn’t brunch so much as it’s going out for brunch. I enjoy a hearty breakfast after my Sunday morning BODYPUMP class, especially if it involves something I can’t readily make on a weekday before work. And I love the company.


So when a work trip was unexpectedly canceled and I found myself hosting a friend for Easter, brunch seemed like the ideal choice. This casserole comes together quickly the night before, and falls somewhere between a bread pudding and egg casserole. I served it with a spinach salad, a bowl of fresh strawberries, and mimosas. We decorated a bunny cake, watched a movie, and caught up on life. If you ask me, as holidays go, this one was pretty perfect.


Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Yield: 4-5 servings

8 oz. ciabatta bread, cut into 1″ cubes
1 lb. pork breakfast sausage (or substitute turkey)
1 1/4 cup milk
6 eggs + enough egg whites to make 1 1/2 cups
4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes or until toasted.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Remove any casings from sausage and add to pan. Cook 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. (If using turkey sausage, you may need to add a little grease to your pan.)

Combine sausage and bread in a large bowl. Combine milk, cheese, eggs and salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to bread mixture, tossing to coat bread. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish generously coated with cooking spray. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Uncover casserole. Toss the ingredients. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until set and lightly browned. Serve immediately, and store any leftovers in the refrigerator.